Daniel Ricciardo says his former Red Bull rival Max Verstappen didn’t understand the responsibility of driving for the team at first.
There were never any questions over Verstappen’s ability, but in his early days at Red Bull that inexperience led to some rather erratic driving and high-profile incidents which earned him little praise among his peers.
Ricciardo himself had his patience tested by the Dutchman and they famously came together in a crash at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix which eliminated both drivers from the race.
Verstappen factored into Ricciardo’s decision to quit Red Bull at the end of that season and make the move to Renault for 2019.
And Ricciardo admits that Verstappen was “immature” back then, and while his approach did have its benefits, he also lacked a sense of responsibility.
“I think credit goes to Max, and a lot of it was his age at the time, that had its down sides with a little bit of immaturity, but it also had its up side with the fact he just didn’t care about anything,” Ricciardo said as part of The Howie Games podcast.
“He didn’t care about annoying people or the risks, it was ‘I’m going to go out there and drive this thing as hard as I can’.
“I think probably he didn’t understand the responsibility, he kind of raced with a lot of free will that worked out for him pretty well a handful of times.”
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 13, 2020
Ricciardo himself did of course have that experience of being the new guy coming into Red Bull to shake things up, having done that in 2014 when he got the better of the team’s four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
The German racer would leave at the end of that season to join Ferrari.
“I knew what I was capable of, I hadn’t proved it yet, but I certainly believed coming in to that season that I could be up there with Seb,” Ricciardo explained.
“If not beating him, I definitely believed I could be close.
“There was not really any expectation or pressure, the only pressure was what I was putting on myself. So that was quite easy from a mental point of view just to come in and be the kid that smiles that nobody expects anything from.
“That was really where I was able to start all this overtaking madness, I was catching people by surprise. They just thought ‘oh okay he’s come through the Red Bull programme, he’s now got a top seat but Red Bull didn’t really have any other options, we won’t have to worry about him’.
“But I definitely feel like I quickly made a point and it was important for me to do so because then it was just going to go back to 2012 and be bullied again, so I needed to reset my reputation.”